Sunday, MAY 27, 2007, I opened my newspaper to find out that Mrs. Fannie Lee Chaney, the mother of James Chaney, had passed away, Tuesday, May 22, 2007. She was the mother of the black Civil Rights worker who was murdered along with Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, in Philadelphia, MS, in 1964.
All three young men were civil rights workers who went down to Mississippi to help disenfranchised black voters obtain and exercise their right to vote as citizens of Misssissippi and America. These three young men were jailed by the racist white police, turned out of jail, at night, taken by Klansmen out into the surounding woods, brutally beaten and shot to death. Their bodies were buried in an earthen dam. Later that year during the Freedom Summer, their bodies were found.
The men accused of murdering them were found ‘Not Guilty’ by an all-white jury. The mothers of Goodman and Schwerner asked that their sons be buried with Mrs. Chaney’s son in the same cemetary, but, the segregated city of Philadelphia, MS, of Neshoba County, denied all three of these mothers the right to have their sons buried together, even though they all died together fighting against a racist system of cruelty and hatred.
Mrs. Chaney lived to see a reputed Klan leader convicted two years ago in the young men’s deaths.In recounting the trial of the accused killer of her son, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who helped prosecute Edgar Ray Killen, recalled that he held Mrs. Chaney’s hand to steady her as she walked to the witness stand to testify. Though her legs were shaky with age, Hood said, she seemed to have found an inner strength and calmness.“She told me she just wanted to live . . . to have her day in court over her son’s murder,” Hood said. “I’m glad she got to live to see the trial.”It may have been justice denied for much too long, but, Mrs. Chaney was able to receive some justice before she left this world.May she and all those brave women and men, who put their lives on the line to pave a way for all of us living today, never be forgotten.
May all that her son, and the sons of Mrs. Goodman and Mrs. Schwerner, always be celebrated for giving us the civil rights, voting rights and so many freedoms that many Americans did not have. Rights that so many Americans, black, white, Native American, Asian, Latino, Arab—–ALL take for granted today.
May she rest in peace.
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